Nevada’s Mysterious Cave of The Red-Haired Giants

by Terrence Aym

Many Native American tribes from the Northeast and Southwest still relate the legends of the red-haired giants and how their ancestors fought terrible, protracted wars against the giants when they first encountered them in North America almost 15,000 years ago.  Others, like the Aztecs and Mayans recorded their encounters with a race of giants to the north when they ventured out on exploratory expeditions.

Who were these red-haired giants that history books have ignored? Their burial sites and remains have been discovered on nearly every continent.  In the United States they have been unearthed in Virginia and New York state, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada.

And it’s in the state of Nevada that the story of the native Paiute’s wars against the giant red-haired men transformed from a local myth to a scientific reality during 1924 when the Lovelock Caves were excavated.At one time the Lovelock Cave was known as Horseshoe cave because of its U-shaped interior. The cavern—located about 20 miles south of modern day Lovelock, Nevada, is approximately 40-feet deep and 60-feet wide.  It’s a very old cave that pre-dates humans on this continent. In prehistoric times it lay underneath a giant inland lake called Lahontan that covered much of western Nevada. Geologists have determined the cavern was formed by the lake’s currents and wave action.

The Legend – The Paiutes, a Native-American tribe indigenous to parts of Nevada, Utah and Arizona, told early white settlers about their ancestors’ battles with a ferocious race of white, red-haired giants. According to the Paiutes, the giants were already living in the area.  The Paiutes named the giants “Si-Te-Cah” that literally means “tule-eaters.” The tule is a fibrous water plant the giants wove into rafts to escape the Paiutes continuous attacks. They used the rafts to navigate across what remained of Lake Lahontan.

According to the Paiutes, the red-haired giants stood as tall as 12-feet and were a vicious, unapproachable people that killed and ate captured Paiutes as food. [Overestimation is to be expected.]  The Paiutes told the early settlers that after many years of warfare, all the tribes in the area finally joined together to rid themselves of the giants.

One day as they chased down the few remaining red-haired enemy, the fleeing giants took refuge in a cave. The tribal warriors demanded their enemy come out and fight, but the giants steadfastly refused to leave their sanctuary.  Frustrated at not defeating their enemy with honor [underestimation is to be expected], the tribal chiefs had warriors fill the entrance to the cavern with brush and then set it on fire in a bid to force the giants out of the cave.  The few that did emerge were instantly slain with volleys of arrows. The giants that remained inside the cavern were asphyxiated. [–“Honorably,” I presume]

Later, an earthquake rocked the region and the cave entrance collapsed leaving only enough room for bats to enter it and make it their home.

The Excavation – Thousands of years later the cave was rediscovered and found to be loaded with bat guano almost 6-feet deep. Decaying bat guano becomes saltpeter, the chief ingredient of gunpowder, and was very valuable.  Therefore, in 1911 a company was created specifically to mine the guano. As the mining operation progressed, skeletons and fossils were found.  The guano was mined for almost 13 years before archaeologists were notified about the findings. Unfortunately, by then many of the artifacts had been accidentally destroyed or simply discarded.

Nevertheless, what the scientific researchers did recover was staggering: over 10,000 artifacts were unearthed including the mummified remains of two red-haired giants—one, a female 6.5-feet tall, the other male, over 8-feet tall.

Many of the artifacts (but not the giants) can be viewed at the small natural history museum located in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Confirmation of the Myth
As the excavation of the cave progressed, the archaeologists came to the inescapable conclusion that the Paiutes myth was no myth; it was true.  What led them to this realization was the discovery of many broken arrows that had been shot into the cave and a dark layer of burned material under sections of the overlaying guano.

Among the thousands of artifacts recovered from this site of an unknown people is what some scientists are convinced is a calendar: a donut-shaped stone with exactly 365 notches carved along its outside rim and 52 corresponding notches along the inside.

But that was not to be the final chapter of red-haired giants in Nevada.In February and June of 1931, two very large skeletons were found in the Humboldt dry lake bed near Lovelock, Nevada.  One of the skeletons measured 8.5-feet tall and was later described as having been wrapped in a gum-covered fabric similar to Egyptian mummies. The other was nearly 10-feet long. [Nevada Review-Miner newspaper, June 19, 1931.]

Another perspective:

Eric Johns, offered an example from 1911, where researchers
named Pugh and Hart had found the remains of large, red haired
humans at Sunset Cave close to Lovelock, Nevada. The remains
found there were said to be between 6.5 and just over seven feet tall,
and some of the remains were shipped to the Smithsonian
Institute by L.L. Loud, an archaeologist with the University of California,
one year later.”These notes are still on digital file at the Hearst Museum
of Anthropology,” Johns shared, “listed under reference number 544,
An Anthropological Expedition of 1913.” But interestingly,
Pugh and Hart, while releasing the majority of the remains to the Smithsonian, also managed to keep a number of the strange artifacts and bones they found, including several skulls, which Johns says remain today at the Humboldt Museum in Winnemucca, Nevada. The boxes obtained by the Smithsonian, however, cannot be accounted for so easily:

[The University of California] seems to have misplaced the skeletons, yet the other material is still there and on display in their exhibits. The same can be said of the Smithsonian, who still use some of Loud’s artifacts for their Southwest exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian. Again, no giant skeletons to be found in their exhibits or catalog.

However, debating whether the size of these specimens fits the criteria for being “giants” or not is an exercise that misses the greater point entirely: that an independent museum managed to maintain record of the remains discovered at Sunset Cave, while the Smithsonian and University of California apparently did not. Had the folks on the receiving end of this odd shipment to the Smithsonian simply been exercising extreme incompetence, or was there some other reason for the “loss” of certain parts of the shipment? This case wouldn’t have to involve human remains of large stature in order call into question why the Smithsonian would misplace portions of the batch shipment, while maintaining others for display. In other words, the mystery has as much to do with the misplacement of a discovery as it does the claims of “giant” bodies being what were actually uncovered.

In the Twelfth Annual Report from the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian, published in 1894, Cyrus Thomas and Thomas Powell of the Bureau of Ethnology wrote of several discoveries where large, seemingly human skeletal remains were found. The first we’ll examine here was discovered in Roane County, Tennessee:

“Underneath [a] layer of shells the earth was very dark and appeared to be mixed with vegetable mold to the depth of 1 foot. At the bottom of this,
resting on the original surface of the ground, was a very large skeleton
lying horizontally at full length. Although very soft, the bones were sufficiently distinct to allow of careful measurement before attempting to remove them. The length from the base of the skull to the bones of the toes was found to be 7 feet 3 inches. It is probable, therefore, that this individual when living was fully 7½ feet high.”


Another instance occurs in the same report, this time at presumed Indian burial mounds at Dunlieth, Illinois:

“Near the original surface, 10 or 12 feet from the center, on the lower side, lying at full length on its back, was one of the largest skeletons discovered by the Bureau agents, the length as proved by actual measurement being between 7 and 8 feet. It was clearly traceable, but crumbled to pieces immediately after removal from the hard earth in which it was encased….”

Page 115 of the printed report features the relevant text:

skeleton II

Indeed, it seems that the Smithsonian at one time did discover and document what could only be called “giants,” during the same period that many of the American newspapers were reporting similar stories. Whether this bolsters the legitimacy of those reports may still be questionable; however, few would argue that trained scientists the likes of Powell and Thomas–despite the allegations of coverups and conspiracies–likely knew what they were talking about when they
took these measurements, and reported on the existence of humans that, when alive, would easily have stood taller than seven feet.

Also, it should be noted that in the latter of the two cases, it states that the skeleton “crumbled to pieces” when attempts were made to remove portions of the body. Hence, the reason in this instance for why the Smithsonian would possess no remains in their record seems clear: they weren’t able to retrieve a skeleton at all, since the discovery was too fragile to remove from the site. In other words, while the Smithsonian has actually acknowledged finding such large skeletons, there may be legitimate reasons as to why no bones were ever recovered in some instances.